ur history as Christians goes back to the creation of the universe, "In the beginning God created" (Genesis 1:1) Later, humans were formed as a special, supreme creation of God. The fall of Adam and Eve was our fall too for we were all born alienated from the Creator. The stories of the Old Testament are of a lost people in need of direction. God began to paint a faint image of a way out of humanity's wandering and waywardness. When the time was right there came a turning point in Bethlehem's stable. It introduced a higher potential for fallen mortals.
The new news of the New Testament is that life does not have to remain in the old crooked ruts but that humankind can move to a higher level through the transforming work of God. Finally, God's original model for the new person can begin to be fashioned in us. This higher plane is not just an improvement, but a transformation of soul and self. It is a new spiritual person born again within the space that the old person occupied. The hope of our New Year is that dreams and aspirations of our hearts will find fruition at this time when we are making resolutions, ending our vacations and picking up the shovel once again. Many are ready to talk to God about change. And God is able to apply the balm.
All of the hullabaloo being made over this week's faked human cloning can be explained in terms of our desire to see a newer model of us introduced on the supermarket shelves. If we could just be cloned, we think, then there is a possibility that our imperfections could be fixed. In a way, we have already been cloned as a result of opening our hearts to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Haven't we all known people who were so righteous and good that they seemed almost divine? Hasn't it always been true that these folks were devout Christians, born again in Christ and infused with His Spirit? I was visiting one of our folks at Wesley Woods this week so I took the opportunity to also visit with one of my old professors of preaching at Emory University. Gordon Thompson should have been elected a Bishop. I voted for him for years, but he barely missed it. However, I think it bothered me more than it did him. He had a great ministry at The Candler School of Theology, working with ruffians such as I. He is a Saint. He represents well Lewis' image of The New Man, the next step in God's creative process. He has been a Little Christ for me.
On New Years Day we were all interested in media coverage about the first babies born in our New Year in Atlanta hospitals. We are fascinated about new life being born. One heartening bit of news was that, "Half of the babies born in 2003 will live to be at least 100 years old." Actually, my Maternal Grandmother and my Mother, both lived to be 94. They finally submitted to mortality; yet, as God's new and improved daughters, they still live in glory. How about that for a major upgrade in the system? Instead of being dead and gone, we will reign alive and happy in heaven. Sure, we hope to make 100, as long as we have an endurable quality of life on earth, but when He is ready for us we will be ready for Him. Someday we will be called home and glorified into a sure enough "new creation!" We will be made entirely new, inside and out. We will have a new body and a new life. Yet, we are not ready to give this old one up quite yet.
Christians never will hear God say, "I'm sorry, your problem is too big to handle." We never have to hear Him make the excuse, "Every other problem can be fixed but yours." In today's lection Jesus says, "See, I am making all things new." And He means all things!
I bought a little book at KUDZU for a buck, 101 Things God Can't Do. I initially thought it would be one of those blank pages books, like the one entitled for men, Everything I Know About Women. But #2 says, "God can't be given a problem He can't solve." #10 "God can't stop loving you." #17 "God can't be given a job He can't do." In other words, He will never fail us!
C.S. Lewis attempted to explain this idea of the new creation by speaking of it in the context of the teaching of the theory of evolution. Everyone has been taught some sort of notion that we have somehow evolved from lower creatures; thus, people often ask, "What is the next step?" (see, Mere Christianity, Chapter titled, "The New Man") Lewis went on to say that Christian believers, filled with God's presence and power, are this next level of creation, "The New Man." We are able to live and love as "Little Christs" as a result of God's transforming work in us. We are made new to be a new creation; we are included in the family of God as sons and daughters.
Additionally, the Spirit's transforming work within our souls is not a one time experience, but a life of Faith Development and growth. We walk as new spiritual persons to the tune of a different drummer. In his book, The Different Drum, Scott Peck, M.D., calls it "a spiritual journey toward self-acceptance, true belonging, and hope for the world." In and through the Christian Church, the gathering of individuals whose souls have been refashioned, there lays the hope of ultimately reaching every sacred soul for whom Christ died. Out there is a whole world of persons that God loves just as much as He loves us, and as His Own, He expects us to reach them with the gospel of grace and the cup of soup. We do that here through cable TV and our Midtown Assistance Center, which are expensive programs but worth it. And we also reach out personally.
This implanted new life, this new and improved creation, has been the distinctive characteristic of the persons who have become a part of this new community. The inherent flaw found in all of us is now curbed by the Power at work within us that is greater than the power of evil. We are set free to soar to new heights. Those original blueprints are finally finding form in us. We continue to sin, as we confessed at communion this morning, but when we sin we ask forgiveness and God has to forgive us and begin to curb more and more the sin nature. Our new role model is Jesus, and we ask ourselves constantly, "What would Jesus have me do?"
Jesus, the baby in a manger, the charismatic beloved young and fearless prophet, is much more intimate than the pre-salvation image that most folks have of God as an angry vengeful figure waiting to punish us for our transgressions. Un-regenerated persons tend to think of God as the secret eye in the Highway Patrol helicopter that is making pictures of us speeding or illegally running through the toll booth. What we now experience is that our Heavenly Father is our Creator who has framed us with the potential for greatness and we can become His crowning glory if we will allow Him to finish His work in us.
Our Father has reached into our souls and found an abiding place. And He will also keep us true, and committed to our calling, as we cooperate with His grace. Sometimes we have to face down the giants, but can prevail by His Spirit at work within us. Trouble continues to come but we face adversity with an adversary. God is on our side, as long as we are on His side.
Is not this New
Year's Sunday a great day to allow God to make us new? Isn't it an opportune
time to make things right that have become twisted and wrong? Jesus
is saying, "I am making all things new!"
a sermon synopsis
by C. Robert Allred, Th.D., Pastor